Procol Harum

the Pale

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Lost in translation

At the very beginning, in October 1997, 'Beyond the Pale' received this donnishly helpful clarification
of the band's name, which is linked to our carefully-chosen '

In view of the new name of the website, 'Beyond the Pale', or better, as regards the clarification of that name, I would like to raise a somewhat delicate matter delicate in that I do not want to give the impression of underestimating anyone's knowledge of Latin.

It has indeed often been said that Procol Harum is Latin for 'beyond those things'. It has also been pointed out before that this isn't quite correct, although I have never read 'the whole story': if you translate 'beyond those things' into Latin, you would get 'procul his' (which may at least throw some light on the frequent occurrence of Procul in references to the band as you will know, the word can even be found on some 'Best of' albums!).

Procul, in the sense of 'far away from', is always followed by an ablative, in this case 'his', with 'harum' being the feminine genitive plural 'of these things' (the latter has also been mentioned by Keith Reid in an interview, although I do not remember exactly which one).

This may all sound very priggish, and I may not be telling you anything new, but I trust that as an academic you understand my concern for avoiding the repetition of a misunderstanding! I thought that someone had to point to the recurrent 'error', before this misunderstanding was disseminated via the new Procol website.                                                                       Thanks, Wilfried!

From Adrian Room Brewer's Dictionary of Names, People, & Places & Things, first published Cassell 1992. p.435 of Helicon 1995 edition:

The British rock band, formed in Southend, Essex, in the early 1960s, at first performed as the Paramounts. In 1967 they adopted their new name, said either to represent Latin procul harum, 'far from these things', or to have been the name of someone's cat. But the Latin phrase is dubious, since procul is followed by the ablative case not the genitive!

Thanks, Sam

Gary Brooker explains (full interview here)

About the Latin name. How did you invent that?

We didn't invent it, our manager at the time 'phoned up and said he'd found a name. We said, 'What is it?' 'Procol Harum.' 'Oh, great.' And it sounds like us, in fact, sounds like what we sound like, so that was that. He didn't just pluck it out of the air, it was the name of a Pedigree name of a cat of a friend of his. And ... er ... of course everyone went, 'What does it mean? What does it mean?' We didn't know it, so we had to find out. We did find out that we actually had got the name wrong over the telephone, we spelt it wrong. But in Latin, the cat's name was 'Procul' with a 'u' and 'Harun' with an 'n' on the end, 'Beyond these things' in Latin. We got round to saying that Procol Harum in fact meant 'Beyond these things', which was a nice coincidence: at least it didn't mean, 'I'm going to town to buy a cow' or something.

Joan May writes:
I recently read a great opinion on the Latin origins of the band's name from Matthew B Tepper who said:

... ah well, if 'Procol Harum' can try to pass for an attempt to translate 'Far Out' into Latin ...

I think that's a perfect way for the band to have acquired its name, even though it probably isn't how it really happened.

From a (spoof) article in The Guardian newspaper of 12 January 2002, concerning possible successors to the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury:

'Of course back in the seventh century the service was given in Latin; no one could understand a word the bishop was saying, so the clergy generally busked it with what little Latin they could remember from school: "Amo amas amatum, Caesar adsum jam forte, habeas corpus, nota bene, status quo et procul harum."' (thank you, Martin)

Fritz Stoehr writes to BtP:I had found the really meaning of the band name:

procul (i.e. far away from) Harum (i.e. a village in Muensterland, Germany)

And this is right: far away from Harum!

See here:

Finally, a tremendous explanation of the band's name found here by Sam Cameron:

The Procol Harum terrific art rock band was named by lyricist Keith Reid a term he thought to be Arabic for "beyond that which is" also the name of his cat.

 Keith Reid on the derivation of the name

All about the eponymous cat 

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